Great coverage in the Kazakh press of this year’s Zhetysu Expedition! The expedition, which took place between 23 August – 1 August, was the second of three, based on journeys undertaken by Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in the summer of 1849. Together with their nine-month old son Alatau, the Atkinsons systemmatically explored almost all the rivers valleys that flow northwards from the Djungar Alatau Mountains in the south-east of Kazakhstan, towards Lake Balkhash.
This year’s horseback expedition, organised in conjunction with the Kazakh Geographic Society, started on the River Sarcan before crossing to the Little Bascan River system and then the Big Bascan River. We also visited the Shumsky Glacier at the base of Peak Tianshansky – the tallest mountain in the Djungar Alatau range.
The aim of these expeditions is to develop an ‘Atkinson Trail’ based on the routes followed by the couple. Next year’s expedition will explore the gorge of the Lepsy River, close to the town of Lepsinsk.
Just back from the 2019 Zhetysu Expedition in Eastern Kazakhstan. I will be publishing a full report in due course, but for now I am posting a few pictures of what was a truly incredible experience. Many thanks to Kazgeo for all their help in organising this brilliant journey.
Our original intention this year had been to retrace the journey taken by the Atkinsons in the summer of 1849 from Zhassyl Kol lake to Ala Kol lake, but events conspired to prevent this from happening. The Djungar Alatau National Park officials told us that they were on high fire alert and that they would not be able to spare horses for that specific journey.
Instead, they suggested we might like to complete a journey we had not been able to make last year, due to high water levels in the rivers. This journey started at the Sarcan River, crossed high ridges to the Little Bascan River – including a horse-trek to the base of the Shumsky Glacier at the base of Peak Tianshansky – then another ridge-crossing to the Big Bascan River. In all it made a total of over 120kms. At 4622m, Peak Tianshansky is the highest in the Djungar Alatau range and the Shumsky glacier is the biggest in Kazakhstan.
We decided to take this route, which had also been followed by the Atkinsons in 1849. It turned out to be a tough route, with numerous crossings of whitewater rivers, but well worth it in terms of the views and sights. We saw ibex, antelope, a wild bear, eagles, marmots and many other remarkable sights. Check below for a small selection of pictures.